# Should we close old KoTH challenges as off-topic?

Recently, a number of old challenges have popped up in the Close Votes review queue, with users voting to close them as off-topic as their deadline for submissions has passed. Personally, I don't see any need to close old challenges that have ended, as people can still post (non-competitive) answers to them, but I'd like a community decision.

In addition, if we do close expired challenges, should we also close expired challenges with the tag, or other tags, such as , or even old challenges with an end date?

Should we close old/expired challenges just because their deadline for submissions has passed?

• FYI I was not trying to claim they were off-topic, it's just that "off-topic" is the only way of creating a custom close reason (I even manually deleted the words "as off-topic" from the auto-generated comment) Sep 3, 2019 at 22:55
• @pppery Maybe the lack of close-vote reasons for this is a sign that it was never intended for questions to be closed for that reason. Sep 4, 2019 at 12:19
• @RedwolfPrograms We are working with software that was never designed to do what we are doing with it. It is almost certain that challenges were never intended to be closed for that reason when they designed the software but that shouldn't stop us if we think it ought to be done.
– Wheat Wizard Mod
Sep 4, 2019 at 13:05
• I strongly dislike the idea of closing KoTH challenges because they're old. That gives a strong message that KoTH challenges are off-topic, and doesn't really accomplish anything. (Are there really that many answers to old KoTH that are problematic?) Sep 4, 2019 at 15:26
• @SriotchilismO'Zaic And at the moment, there seem to be very few people who think it ought to be done. Sep 4, 2019 at 16:09
• @RedwolfPrograms currently it appears to be evenly split, so I don't think we can call and consensus in either way just yet Sep 4, 2019 at 16:14
• Related Sep 4, 2019 at 21:12

I don't think the intention of the "answers must be competitive" rule ever was to close all questions which can't be improved on, nor does requiring closing follow from noticing a question which has an answer that can't be competed with.

Should we also close a challenge with a 0-byte answer if it said "least amount of bytes wins, with tie breaker being post time"? To note is that answering (many) KotHs after the deadline is allowed, it's just that you won't win - exactly the same outcome scoring/winning-wise, just for different reasons.

There's also the argument that seeing a closed challenge might give a bad view on / - if all old popular KotHs are closed, it makes sense to think that all KotHs are off-topic and shouldn't be asked.

Personally, I would also say that closing KotHs just because their deadline has passed doesn't benefit anyone (IMO making similar challenges shouldn't at all ever be influenced by previous ones not being closed except if it's a direct duplicate (in which case editing makes 100% sense, but that's another topic)), and the closed tag would probably confuse many, and may result in people ignoring a potentially interesting question.

• I left a comment on my answer as well but I will leave it here too. "I feel like you are not reading the rest of my answer. Whether or not they are technically allowed is not hugely important. The important bit is that they are not given a fair chance to compete, and if we value these answers they should be given a fair chance to compete."
– Wheat Wizard Mod
Sep 4, 2019 at 16:35
• @WheatWizard Some challenge types just require some limits to be reasonable, and a deadline is one of those. Its goal definitely isn't to make people unable to compete, but, at best, to not require the author to be immortal. Continuing copy-pasting, a thing I said in TNB about a different topic applies here - "this site is for recreational programming, so why explicitly disallow having fun?" Sep 4, 2019 at 16:46

Personally, I don't see any need to close old challenges that have ended, as people can still post (non-competitive) answers to them

The "(non-competitive)" is a red herring.

In a well presented KotH, anyone can (subject to being able to install all the necessary compilers/interpreters/runtimes) run the contest and reproduce the results. If this isn't the case then the question should be closed as off-topic for lacking an objective winning criterion, not for being past its "best before" date.

In other words, the "best before" date should only be relevant for the accepted answer. And although in an ideal world the accepted answer would be updated when a better answer is received, I'm sure we could find plenty of examples in other tags where that isn't the case. I don't think anyone would propose closing a question as off-topic just because OP is no longer active on the site and so can't update the accepted answer, but that's essentially the same problem.

• For king-of-the-hill challenges, auto-accepting the best answer is still problematic: These challenges are often non-deterministic and the best answer may change from run to run. I wish it was otherwise, but often times the best answers use randomness. Sep 7, 2019 at 14:10

Having one of my questions being quickly close-voted for this reason, I think it shouldn't happen. Just because an answer is late to a challenge, I don't think it's bad or invalid. The late answers are often some of the best, since they aren't just quickly thrown together to try to win a challenge, but instead designed purely for the sake of deigning them.

As someone who enjoys reading old challenges, the [closed] marking often keeps me from even bothering to read the question, since it would usually indicate the question is of low quality, is off topic, or is too broad. Having one of my questions branded with [closed] just for being outdated wouldn't seem fair to me.

In some cases, like the Sriotchilism O'Zaic's answer mentions, it makes sense. However, I think doing so without consent from the question's author isn't fair to them.

The primary use in closing a question is that it prevents new answers from being submitted. Usually this is used to prevent a challenge from accumulating answers while their issues are being sorted out.

If we want to prevent KOTHs from accumulating answers after their deadlines then closing them is a good way to do this.

However the question stands as to whether or not we want to stop new answers from being posted. You make a case for them in your question.

And I agree with this case I do think that there is value in new answers to old questions. However currently we disallow answers that make no attempt to optimize for the challenge. Answers submitted after the deadline cannot win or even place and thus do not optimize for the challenge. In fact in a sense it is not even possible to do worse than a late answer. And so by our current consensus they are disallowed. (there are no "non-competing" answers)

So what can we do about these valuable contributions that are being lost because a challenge is closed to submissions? Well I am of the belief that if you think you have a valuable contribution then you should re-ask the challenge, hopefully improve it, perhaps remove the deadline, so that your new answer can compete against other answers. It may be a good idea in these cases to move over some of the existing answers as community wikis. Valuable contributions go to waste if they can not actually compete. They are already locked out of the challenge whether we prevent them from being posted or not.

In this case it is useful to close the challenges. This will prevent invalid answers and will make room for new versions of the challenge.

This is a little different for questions since starting the question anew radically changes things and a contribution to an old question does not necessarily work for a new one. This situation is discussed more thoroughly here. I think we should stick with what is said there, but I don't want to give the impression that my answer applies to answer chaining questions.

This is Sriotchilism O'Zaic's answer originally, I am reposting under CW as they wish to be disassociated from it

• I downvoted because IMO this answer is based on a false premise (that answers posted after the "deadline" are non-competing). Sep 6, 2019 at 8:04
• If someone posted a copy of an expired KotH with no deadline, I would vote to close it as a duplicate. Sep 8, 2019 at 12:08
• If someone offers to take over running of a KotH after the author no longer has time, then if the author agrees they can edit to say so, and the volunteer can then run tournaments and keep the leaderboard updated, allowing new challengers. An expiry date on a KotH does not prevent it being revived in this way later. The original winner can continue to be mentioned to give credit for being the best within the original time frame Sep 8, 2019 at 12:13
• Thanks for reposting this. I think it's more useful on meta to have a downvoted answer as evidence than to lose that information Sep 8, 2019 at 12:14
• Personally I'd even be in favour of a volunteer taking over running of a KotH without the author's permission if the author is long term inactive. The controller code is nearly always public, and SE questions are editable by all members. I'd respect the author's decision when they are present, but I see no reason to leave a challenge dormant in the absence of the author Sep 8, 2019 at 12:18